The Lennard Longhorns’ success this season will most likely ride on starting QB Gavin Henley’s strong arm. The 6’1”, 185-pound senior has been under center running the Lennard attack for three-plus seasons now, and six-year Head Coach Matt Kitchie plans on using his skillset as a drop-back passer to run his multiple-look spread offense and throw the ball around the yard.

Kitchie said that Henley has grown into a very good football player and leader in his time at Lennard. He has put on 25 pounds of muscle and grown a couple of inches. He is not only a great football player but an outstanding student in the classroom as well, boasting a GPA well over a 4.0 and an SAT score over 1300. In 2019, Henley led the Longhorns to a 7-4 overall record and a playoff berth. In 2020, they had a tough year, finishing 4-5 due to unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19.

Last season, Henley completed 143 passes for 1,579 yards and 13 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He also has the ability to run the ball if needed, as he carried it 45 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns. He is getting several looks by Ivy League schools and some great academic schools, such as Stetson University, as well.

Kitchie believes that his team’s strength this year is their depth, particularly at the skill positions, such as defensive back, receiver, running back, linebacker and quarterback. Some key players from these groups include senior Chauncey Jones II, who is a tough and powerful running back that will carry the bulk for the Longhorns; freshman speedster running back Tyron Jackson; and senior receiver/safety team captain Ha’Keem Monroe, who has a lot of Division I college offers. The Longhorns only have to replace eight seniors from last season, returning five starters on offense and four on defense. The biggest college recruits will come out of the Lennard sophomore and junior classes.

The 2021 version of Lennard is poised to bounce back and have another winning season. However, they will have to earn each and every win because they have no easy opponents on their schedule, having to face six playoff teams from last season, including Wharton, Bloomingdale, Palmetto, Manatee, Jefferson and Plant City. Kitchie and his team know that they have to play the best to be the best, and they relish the opportunity to use these games as a building block for this season. They are off to a great start, having beat Braden River 21-16 in their Preseason Classic.

Lennard will have to overcome some inconsistency on their offensive line, as well as stay healthy on defense. They also have a roster full of young inexperienced talent. Kitchie thinks that his young kids getting a lot of playing time this season will be beneficial to his program in the future. Kitchie is looking for improvements from his players throughout the season and wants them, first and foremost, to have a fun time playing football.

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.